The Reality of Getting Ill After Cancer

Cancer & Me

What do you do, when your favourite place is also your absolute worst?  When I remember having cancer I am always in one of two places.  One (as you would expect) is the hospital, the other is in bed at home.  Both were accompanied by dark emotions of fear, anxiety and discomfort — physical and mental.

Although it was more comfortable being in bed at home, it was also scarier.  The security of having medical staff, diagnostic tools and the (seriously good) painkillers nearby would be stripped away and I would feel so much more vulnerable.  I couldn’t press a little buzzer and say to someone within a matter of moments; Is this normal?  Should I be concerned?  I think something is wrong.  I had to determine those things on my own and would be constantly double guessing my own judgement.

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If you follow me on social media, you will probably know that over the last few months I have had a number of bladder infections, kidney infections and Sepsis.  The most recent being last week when I ended up in A&E — again!  Each time these illness’ have seriously knocked me for six and I have ended up back in bed for days whilst the medication does its thing. Immediately I am thrown back into a very strange headspace.

I don’t worry about it being cancer or anything like that, but being back in bed is still very triggering for me.  Those feelings of fear, anxiety and discomfort come back.  The vulnerability of taking responsibility for whether I am OK or not and the constant double guessing of myself, overwhelms me.  The ability to see an infection as just an illness being easily treated is lost as I fall headfirst down the emotional rabbit hole.

Being in bed whilst sick gets me so upset and tearful, even though logically I know I am being ridiculous.  I know I haven’t got cancer.  I know once the antibiotics kick-in I’ll be fine.  I know that unlike before, I’m not going to be stuck in bed for months on end with a complete lack of control over myself and my health.  Even so, it still triggers all of these negative emotions and connotations.

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There is a reason for this.  It is caused by the way our brains hold onto emotional memories and create shortcuts.  Once the brain associates a ‘thing’ with an ’emotion’ — in my case, being in bed sick = fear, vulnerability and very long-term, severe illness — the brain will quickly recall that emotional memory when in a similar situation.*

As horrible as my sickness recalls are, they are nowhere near as bad as they used to be.  I’m getting better at saying to myself – this is just an emotional memory, it’s not what’s happening now, but it’s not a flawless system.  Sometimes I’m so in the depth of despair, I’m not able to remind myself, but I do try and I am getting better.  Plus, as I continue to get ill and recover, my brain will start to create new shortcuts and I will have a different set of memory recalls.  It will just take time.

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I think this story serves as a reminder that cancer isn’t over and done with as soon as the doctor says, you’re all clear.  As with anything, it takes time for the emotional fall-out to settle, for your emotional resilience to build back up and for your brain to create new shortcuts.  It is also a great reminder that it is not a straight upward line from feeling shite to feeling fine all the time.  Like life, there are up’s and down’s, followed by one step forward then ten steps back, followed by a few stumbles along the way.

So if, like me, you are feeling all the things right now, logical and completely illogical, just know that you’re not alone – I’m right there with you!

Stay healthy!
Nx

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About Nicola
Nicola is the author of ‘The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer’ part memoir, part guide for people going through, or supporting someone going through cancer.  Nicola has also published creative fiction and non-fiction, and copyedits and writes for others.   Nicola also runs online  Writing Workshops throughout the year, sharing her love of reading and writing with everyone!

*You can read more about emotional memory here…

But I Can’t Write?!

Cancer & Me, Writing & Blogging

Unknown-1.jpegThis has gone through your head, hasn’t it? I know it has.  You know that you want to write but then the fear and the doubt creeps in, takes the pen from your hand and tells you to go sit down and stop getting ideas above your station.  I know this because this is one of the biggest things people tell me whilst also telling me how much they would LOVE to write.

It might not just be that you believe you can’t write.  It could be a belief you hold on to that everything needs to be perfect before you write, that you need to ensure you know everything before you start, a fear of failure, or a fear of success, you don’t think the time is right, the environment is right, your house is tidy enough… whatever it is, it all comes back to the little voice in our heads telling us do NOT put yourself out there.

Ultimately you are lacking the self-belief that you can do it – and you shouldn’t be!

And I get it, I totally get it!  Even though I have had a book published, articles published, a short play performed, a First Class Honours degree in Creative Writing, been accepted to Cambridge University and write an award-winning blog, I still have that same little voice nagging in the back of my head telling me that I can’t do it and I’m not good enough!

So if you are feeling it, remember – feeling ‘the fear’ is fine. It’s normal. But you can never let fear control you because then it distracts you, demotivates you and will leave you regretting things you’ve never done.  Take control.  Get those thoughts and fears out.  Dispel them by using them to fuel your writing.

Write about what you are afraid of. What could go wrong?  What’s the worst possible outcome?  But then write about why you are going to do it anyway.  Write a list of all the amazing things you are going to gain from writing. Acceptance. Understanding. Perception. Control. Creative living. A place for your stories and memories. Ten minutes out of your day when it is just about you and your thoughts. The ability to control your own narrative… write down anything that is positive. In fact, do that now…

Write a list, right now, of at least 5 things you will gain from writing…. Go!

Amother idea… Whenever your inner critic comes screeching into your mind, make a note of what they are saying, give yourself some time to reflect on it and then write your critic a letter, giving them some advice on how to be kinder.

Another common thing people tell me when they are asking about blogging or sharing their story is – but there are already so many blogs about cancer / serious illness / make-up / whatever it is you want to blog about, out there!

And I always reply with this… Yes, there probably are BUT only you can tell your story your way. Only you know what it was like going through the things you have been through.  Only you know how you feel about certain books / make-up / parenting.  Only you can write that specific piece of creative fiction.  And if you don’t tell it, you are denying the world from hearing what you have to say.

Don’t worry about what other people are doing – just worry about all the awesome stuff that you are doing.

Sometimes it’s just about giving ourselves permission to write. So take this, here and now, as your permission to write and to allow writing to help and heal you. 

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There is always going to be a day when you start. Everyone, even JK Rowling started at the beginning, having never had anything published, looking at a blank page, wondering if anyone was ever going to give a shit.  Is the first thing you ever write going to be exceptionally amazing – maybe not, but it is going to be a hell of a lot better than a blank page! Seriously, no one is ever going to read that!

 

Happy Writing! x

P.S. I wanna read what you are writing so if you have a blog / book / anything, please leave the link in the comments below so that we can all take a look.

How to write about your cancer experience – the webinar!

Cancer & Me, The Fabulous Woman's Guide Through Cancer, Writing & Blogging

image1Hello all you lovelies!

Did you see the webinar that I did with the fabulous Coaching Emily last Thursday as part of my Virtual Book Tour?  If not, great news, you can see it here…

It was a fantastic experience and the time flew past, meaning that it is actually over an hour but, hopefully it’s worth it.

Once you’ve watched the webinar you will know that there is our unique community supporting people after cancer on Facebook, set up by a qualified coach and health psychology specialist – Coaching Emily herself!  If you’re not already a member, you can request to join the group here…

And if you want ALL the information, then please do grab a copy of the book here.

Only one more stop on the Virtual Book Tour so I will see you there on the 31st March!

Birthday Giveaway!

Cancer & Me, Writing & Blogging

Virtual Book Tour

As ‘The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer’ Virtual Book Tour coincides with my birthday I thought it was the perfect excuse for a Birthday Giveaway!

To enter, just pop your name and email address in here and don’t forget to tell your friends!

Find out about all the goodies that I have ready to send out to you in this video…

To enter, just pop your name and email address in here and don’t forget to tell your friends!

Already signed up, no worries, that means you are already entered into the draw!

Hope you are enjoying the Virtual Book Tour.  I am having the best time doing it, but would love to hear what you guys think, so please do let me know.  And don’t forget that we have LOADS more coming up.  I have a book review coming on The Writing Garnet, I am giving an interview at TEND Nutrition, a guest blog post about writing at Womb Cancer Support UK, a webinar about how to get started writing at Coaching Emily, my Birthday Giveaway draw, and a review at Through the Looking Glass… Plenty more to keep you entertained.

Nx

 

Come with me to Los Angeles!

Cancer & Me, Writing & Blogging

Virtual Book Tour Love

Gosh I wish I really could feel that LA heat BUT let’s Virtually head over there and visit Esme Winterflood at her LA Lash Studio on Venice Beach.

Esme is sharing her excerpt from The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer where she gives all the tips and tricks for lashes when you are going through chemotherapy.

So head over and visit Esme Winterflood here

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We still have loads more to come with our Virtual Book Tour so make sure that you sign up here to stay up to date with everything that’s going on and remember to pass it on! xx

Did you see the previous Virtual Book Tour stops?

screen-shot-2017-03-06-at-09-25-45.pngTalent Keepers
Guest post ‘Managing Employees Returning from Critical Illness’
Read all about it here!

 
Nicola Jane screenshot.pngNicola Jane
The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer was Nicola Jane’s first ‘Book of the Month’
Read all about it here!

Still to come…

I will be meeting some fabulous women over the coming weeks so stay tuned and pass it on to anyone else who might be interested!

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1st Virtual Tour Stop – Nicola Jane

Cancer & Me, Writing & Blogging

vbt-nicola-janeIt has begun!  That first day of my Virtual Book Tour and I am so excited… especially as I am starting off at the completely fabulous Nicola Jane.

Nicola Jane know everything that there is to know about post-breast surgery fashion.  From mastectomy bras to swimwear and everything in between they have you covered.

They wrote a fabulous section in my book, full of styling tips and information for shopping after breast surgery and I feel very honoured that they asked me to be their first ever ‘Book of the Month’ in the community part of their website.

Nicola Jane Book Of The Month: March
Wednesday, 1st March 2017

Introducing our Nicola Jane ‘Book of the Month’ for March: “The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer” by Nicola Bourne

So head over and read all about it here…

Make sure you stay up to date with everywhere I am visiting this month by subscribing here…

 

 

World Cancer Day Q&A

Any Human Heart, Cancer & Me

Hello all, happy World Cancer Day!

As a way of highlighting the fact that it is World Cancer Day I thought that I would answer a few of the questions I’m repeatedly asked about my cancer experience, so here we go…

What was the best thing that someone did / bought for you when you had cancer?

People are always asking me this because they want to know how they can help someone else.  You don’t need to wait to be asked to do something, no one is going to mind you turning up with a casserole, they will love it, but equally don’t expect to eat it with them or be messaging twice a day asking for the dish back because that just makes it stressful.  Do things without expecting anything back.

The gifts I appreciated the most were uplifting DVD’s (keyword uplifting) and microwaveable gloves and booties as your extremities can get very cold when you are having chemotherapy.

Do your children know you had cancer and how did you talk to them about the illness?

When I was diagnosed my son had just turned two years old and my daughter was three months old.  My son could see I was very sick so we always explained it in a language he would understand.  Things like, mummy has an owee and the doctor is giving her special medicine and we have always tried to encourage both kids to ask plenty of questions.

As my kids got older they’ve asked more questions which I have answered as honestly as possible so they now know that I had an illness called cancer.  They also know that the reasons we do so many Cancer Research UK campaigns is because they raise money to help people like mummy get better and I just love being able to tell them that!  My wish is that one day every parent can tell their child that they are cancer free.

It is really tough being a mum whose sick, there are no two ways about it. I actually wrote an article about coping strategies and the subject gets a whole chapter in the book because being a mum with any long-term serious illness has such a massive impact.

Was writing a book about having cancer therapeutic?

It was but it wasn’t always easy.  I remember when writing about (and reliving) the moments that I was so low I wanted to give up, I came away from my computer crying.  But at the same time, that was what I wanted, an honest account that did approach the harder emotional parts of having cancer, so I felt I had to go through that.  I think that, combined with the time that has passed, definitely helped me come to terms with what I went through.

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Wearing my Cancer Research UK Unity Band

Have you got an advice to anyone wanting to write about their cancer experience?

I think writing is a unique and amazing way to process emotions, good and bad.  Obviously you don’t have to keep a blog or write a book, it can be private thoughts just for yourself.  If you do want to publish, I think WordPress is an excellent blogging platform, it’s what I use.  If you want to write and don’t know where to start, check out a book like Let It Out by Katie Dalebout which gives prompts and different ways of looking at your illness.

What is it like for you when people donate to Cancer charities?

Ok, so the only people who ever ask me this are cancer charities but it really is an AMAZING feeling!  You feel like people are doing something very personal for you and your family – they are helping to ensure that you live.  It feels incredibly personal and incredibly moving.  I feel the same way about people who volunteer in charity shops.  Because of YOU, I was offered a type of chemotherapy that my mother, 8 years earlier, wasn’t.  The fact that people I don’t know and never will are actively doing something which helped save my life is a very unique and powerful feeling that I can’t fully articulate.

If you want to be one of those amazing people – great news – you can!  Give whatever you can to the cancer charity of your choice and know that you are doing something this World Cancer Day to literally change the life of someone with cancer!

With love & Unity! x

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5 TOP TIPS FOR CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR WITH CANCER

Cancer & Me, Family Matters

images-1Going through Christmas and New Year when you have cancer can be a strange thing. It becomes more poignant, more emotional, more lovely, more sad, more everything… I know from first hand that heightened emotions that come from big occasions and family get-together can therefore become a little stressful and require a lot more planning. That’s why I wrote about attending any big occasion in my book, but with Christmas tomorrow (how is it here already) I thought I would share a couple of Top Tips that I found made Christmas easier…

1. THINK THE DAY THROUGH

In your mind, walk through the day so you can get your head around how the day is expected to play out. For example if you are visiting your parents for the day it may be something like:

  • It’s a two-hour drive there and I will need to take painkillers during that time so I must have some water and fruit with me in the car
  • I’ll wear something comfy in the car and change into my outfit when I get there so I need to pack my outfit
  • We aren’t eating until 4pm but I will need a snack to take medication with at lunchtime so I will take some nuts for then
  • I need to change plasters at 2pm but we will be having a pre-lunch walk then so I need to make sure I do it before we leave for our walk and take plasters with me.
  • So on…

Doing this should help take out the element of surprise and make it less nerve-racking.

FABULOUS TIP – I find it easy to remember to take medication when I am at home but when I come out of my normal routine I easily forget. Set a reminder on your phone to make sure you don’t lose track of what you need to be taking and when. 

2. YOUR HANDBAG

This will be your home away from home whilst at an event, but to save you walking around with a bag that is gong to break your shoulder, I would go for the cute little bag that holds your phone and the bits that you would normally take out with you and then a second bag for medical supplies, change of outfit, whatever it may be, that you can leave in the car / under the table for if and when you need it.

FABULOUS TIP – Take double the number of the essentials you need. If you know you will need two painkillers during the time period, take four. That way if you get caught in traffic or end up staying later than planned or anything like that, you know you’re covered. 

3. YOUR OUTFIT

If you need to change bandages or plasters, make sure they are easily accessible in what you are wearing – or that you will be able to go somewhere and change when needed.

Have your outfit completely ready to go before-hand and that means everything – tights, fascinator, coat, underwear, wig, scarf, literally the whole outfit from top to bottom, including everything that you need in your handbag. Will save you panicking on the day because you can’t find the right denier tights.

4. KNOW WHEN TO LEAVE

Don’t feel like you have to be the last one to leave. Do as much as you can and when you start to feel like it is enough, tell your host that you are starting to feel unwell and have to leave.

I found tiredness would creep up on me and suddenly I would be beyond exhausted. Once I was at that point of exhaustion, I would be knocked out for the next few days and the pain would then be difficult to stay on top of, so it was always best for me to leave before that point.

5. LET IT GO

Having said that, we all need a blow out every now and then – especially when going through something like cancer, so don’t feel bad if you do get caught up in the moment and spend the next few days paying for it, just enjoy yourself, you definitely deserve it!

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